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City plans for new traffic camera at Vandiver and Rangeline

Friday, July 23, 2010 | 12:12 p.m. CDT; updated 4:00 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 23, 2010
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A new camera installed at the intersection of Rangeline Street and Vandiver Drive is set to be functional by mid-September.

COLUMBIA — Eleven months after first installing red light cameras, the city has plans for a new one at the Rangeline Street and Vandiver Drive intersection.

The camera should look at westbound traffic, and Gatso USA, the company who installs and runs the cameras, expects to have it up and running by mid-September.

Columbia already has five red light cameras in place, Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine said. St. Romaine said a single camera covers one direction of traffic, not an entire intersection.

Cameras are already functioning at the following locations:

  • Traffic traveling north on Providence Road at the Broadway intersection
  • Traffic traveling north and south on Providence at the Stadium Boulevard intersection (two cameras)
  • Traffic traveling north on Stadium Boulevard at the Worley Street intersection
  • Traffic traveling north on Stadium at the Forum Boulevard intersection

Columbia has a contract with Gatso that could yield up to 16 red light cameras in the city. Five have been installed since August 2009.

"You hope even though there is only one camera, people will still slow down and think that the entire intersection has them," he said.

In addition to the new camera at Rangeline and Vandiver, Gatso plans to survey three more intersections once college students return to Columbia.

Originally, four intersections were considered for cameras. Only the Rangeline and Vandiver intersection had enough violations to merit a camera. The city asked Gatso for another round of surveys once students return because, as St. Romaine said, violations might be higher during the school year.

Rich Kosina, chief technical officer for Gatso, said the company only conducts surveys on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays, and they try to measure traffic at peak hours.

"You're trying to get an idea of what the actual traffic patterns are and what the population is doing," he said.

Gatso pays the entire $75,000 to $100,000 price tag for each camera. To ensure a camera will be profitable, an intersection has to have a high enough number of red light violations each day. From each paid ticket, the company gets $41 of the $120 fine.

Kosina said it usually takes about two to three years to turn a profit on a camera.

To measure the financial impact of the cameras, St. Romaine asked Columbia's internal auditor, John Blattel, to audit the camera program.

The report should look at the revenue and expenses generated by the program, Blattel said. He plans to finish the report by mid-August. He also hopes to compare accident statistics at these intersections with others in the city.

Making intersections safer was the main reason for the cameras in the first place, St. Romaine said.

"A lot of people say this is about the money, the revenue, but our intent is to get people to stop running red lights."


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Comments

John Schultz July 23, 2010 | 12:43 p.m.

If the intent is to get people to stop running red lights, I think they could have chosen a more violation-prone intersection than Vandiver and Rangeline, especially the westbound traffic (northbound and southbound seem to have more red-light runners when I'm at that intersection). Will Gatso's survey numbers and the intersections surveyed be released by the city?

I'm also skeptical of the statement "He also hopes to compare accident statistics at these intersections with others in the city." When red light cameras first came up a few years back, I asked the CPD for traffic accident statistics and their data was not granular enough to have running a red light as a cause for an accident. Has the accident reported been upgraded enough that apples can be compared to apples when looking at traffic accident statistics before and after cameras were installed at an intersection? And please don't compare to intersections that don't have cameras, let's look at just before and after at the affected intersections.

(Report Comment)
Will Guldin July 25, 2010 | 4:19 p.m.

Hi John,

I’m the reporter for the story. Sorry it took me so long to get back to you. The answer to your first question is that the survey numbers are public record. I didn’t have them on hand for this article, but if you call the city manager’s office I’m sure they’d be willing to give them to you. Although I can’t speak as to the number of violations, I can say its only in Gatso’s best interest to put the cameras at the most violation-prone intersection since they are footing the bill for the equipment.

As for the second part, Blattel isn’t sure if CPD will be able to provide him with that information. He said he’d hope to have that information in there, to see if the cameras reduced the number of accidents, but he didn’t want to promise that he would be able to get a hold of it. He isn’t sure, because he said the system is setup where you can find something if you know exactly what you’re looking for, (say a particular accident), but you can’t easily find sweeping accident statistics for specific intersections.

I hope that information helps,

Will

(Report Comment)

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